Joe & jeremiah deliver another epic episode, covering quite a range of topics! Jeremiah discusses his struggle with the anniversary of his daughter Samantha’s death, and the fellas welcome host of Podunk Polymath Chris Watson to discuss if the Atheist movement is eating itself alive.
1.) 2016 Elections, Trump
2.) Real Atheology, Justin’s Goals
3.) Atheism’s always right? Climate Change
4.) Jeremiah update: Palm Springs weather, his dope new
hat, Team Tiny Dancer, & his recent appearance
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Paleocrat Diaries No. 9 (Feb. 23, 2016)
My approach to writing/talking about politics in election years is so radically different from what I see and read from so many others in my line of work! I put myself on thin-ice all the time with my praise & criticism of candidates, particularly those running for high offices…
…and especially when so much is on the line!
But I’m in absolutely nobody’s pocket, though, not ever! And I try to be cognizant of my own biases, intentionally reading from as many diverse sources as I can, even from otherwise radical/fringe groups — I rarely agree with them but I’m open to the challenge! More than that, I’m surrounded by brilliant and engaging people from diverse political and religious landscapes! They challenge me all the time, constantly keeping me on my toes, often forcing me even to question assumptions that have been at the core of my thought for decades!
After waking from a good night’s sleep following our memorable walk near the London Eye, we grabbed some breakfast at Thyme Restaurant and scrambled our way into the London rain in hopes of landing The Original Tour London Sightseeing bus for their so-called red line; this would take us by such hot spots as the Tower of London, Lambeth Palace, Trafalgar Square (a major tourist stop!), the Royal Courts of Justice, Buckingham Palace and St. Paul’s Cathedral, just to name a few! And it was a hop-on/hop-off tour bus, so we could get out and visit any of the sights we happened to pass by.
Our bus was really cool, having two levels and with half of the top level being entirely exposed — no windows, no roof! The kids were so excited to ride up top… well, for about a solid five-minutes, anyway! Even if it hadn’t started raining (again), we’d have been forced down below by the frigid London winds!
Underneath was spacious, featuring rows of seats, some facing each other with a table in the middle allowing riders to talk, read, or even to eat. There were also earphone jacks in case anyone wished to listen to the pre-recorded tour guide tell tales about sights the bus was passing by.
Roads are afterthoughts for 2,000-year-old cities — they don’t have the grid system Americans have grown accustomed to — so traffic was winding to and fro through narrow lanes dividing one ancient building from another, with cars & cabs continually veering in and out of traffic, each huddled within a foot of one another at stop lights; and, of course, they were all driving on the left side of the road! It was the starts & stops, however, that had our guts turning inside out. Downtown traffic on the tour never went over 30 mph but every driver seemed as quick to the gas as they were to the breaks! This was especially frightening for us when we were nice & warm (with windows and a roof) in the front row of the bus’s upper level! Every stop looked as though the bus was going to climb atop the back of the automobile ahead of it, and we couldn’t help but to be worried whenever the bus was approaching someone on a bicycle or motor scooter!
At some point, Ambrose, Teresa, and Athanasius fell asleep. We still hadn’t gotten over jet lag and Athanasius was still sick, so we let them close their eyes. Sami stayed awake, though, gazing beyond the raindrops on the window to see the beautiful buildings, the stunning imperial statues, and even students exercising in the courtyard of the City of London School for Girls. She was in awe, spellbound, entirely taken by all of it!
“London is the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen, Mama! These building are so ancient! I wish we could live here so that I could see them every day!”
I agreed, and I’ve seen many major American cities. Whether to live, to go to school, or just to visit, I’ve traveled a lot over the years, at least within the contiguous United States. Sticking only to a handful of prominent cities, I’ve seen the streets of Chicago, Illinois; Time Square (viva Fleet Week!) in New York, New York; the historical buildings and monuments in Washington, D.C.; even the skylines of Seattle, Washington, and Vancouver, British Columbia. Add to these cities like Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Tulsa, Oklahoma; Salt Lake City, Utah; Las Vegas, Nevada; and Los Angeles, California, including Beverly Hills and Hollywood. These are all beautiful metropolitan areas, each with their own uniqueness and charm; but none of these cities are 2,000 years old; most of their structures are made from glass & steel, not brick, stone and marble. And the statues we saw in London were predominantly realistic, most having to do with royalty, the military and religion, and all symbolizing triumphs & defeats in the games of God and war. There’s something to America’s design — especially for a culture hell-bent on all things mechanical, moving, and modern — but there was something mystifying about the old palaces, the walls, bridges, and castles. While I don’t wish to ruin the topic of a future post, allow me to say this much: I envy the Brits’ connection to the past, the way that even their architecture lands them within their own history, within the democracy of their dead. Good or bad — and there’s plenty of terrifying and tragic stories being told by the tour guides! — it’s part of the air they breathe, like fish in the familiar habitats of ancient rivers! Profundity all around, even to the fault of feeling entirely accustomed to the fact.
After casting our stares at the Marble Arch, Sherlock’s Baker Street, the HMS Belfast, Shakespeare’s Globe, and the world-famous Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain “Eros” statue near (my favorite statue in) Trafalgar Square, our tour bus returned to the stop from whence we got on-board. The kids were starving… and still so tired! Plus, it was already sunset, the gelid weather was penetrating our coats and shoes, and both Sami & Ambrose complained that their feet were wet and numb. (Not good, especially when we’re already taking serious precautions to keep any of them from getting sick.) So food it was, again at Thyme — and don’t worry yourselves, I promise to write about our fun adventures with British food in a future post!
With sniffly noses and tummies full of food, we resigned to yet another early night dozing off to political talk on the BBC about what the U.K.’s military involvement ought to be against ISIS in light of the terror attacks in Paris, France. Fading into dreamland, I thought to myself: there’s nothing quite like the late-night realization that while our day may have been cut short by exhaustion and weather, there were others not far away whose entire lives were cut short in acts of terror committed by fanatical members of a religious death cult… we were grateful to be alive, the family all tucked-in and sound asleep in preparation for tomorrow’s Paddington Station, where we’ll be hitching a train ride to Cardiff, Wales… home to The Doctor Who Experience museum!
From the aftermath of a wish-come-true!
Jeremiah “The Paleocrat” Bannister
“Can we go on a walk, Papa? Just me and you?”
The kids had been on the edge of their seats all day, looking out the window for any sign that the storm had abated. Every flash of light was “definitely the sun!” and any amount of silence in the hotel room was a sure indication that the storm clouds were done drenching the streets of London. But Mother Nature didn’t let up, at least not until the kids were fast asleep for the night… all the kids but one.
Sami had been like Winnie-the-Pooh all day, going with the flow, enjoying even the mundane — “We’re actually really in London, Papa!” — but she isn’t immune to boredom… and time was ticking fast! Turns out, too, that it was a small window of opportunity earlier in the day that precipitated her ambition to get out of the hotel. The rain had let up that afternoon just long enough for us to check out the souvenir shop up the road and to eat some delicious Indian food around the corner from the Premier Inn London Waterloo Hotel where we were staying. It was freezing cold and the light rain was irritating on the face but we needed to get out, and we needed lunch! But it wasn’t the Public School English, the £s or pence, or even the streets cluttered with “Look, Mr. Bean’s car!” that got her excited to wander. No, it was our fleeting pass by the Coca-Cola London Eye, and that’s what she wanted to see, like, yesterday!
After a flurry of getting dressed & ready, grabbing my Navy-issued pea coat along with Sami’s Doctor Who scarf and blanket, the two of us were out the door and into the darkness of London nights. The streetlights were all lit up as the sun sets right around 4 p.m. Greenwich Meantime (GMT); and the hustle & bustle of cars and cabs hadn’t slowed down one bit since we ate lunch! People were walking around everywhere, chatting it up, eating at well-lit (and warm!) restaurants, even smoking hookah. All of this was done within a maze of ancient structures built of stone and of brick, constructed with an obvious preference for pedestrians — cars weren’t invented yet. Then, after a quick left, a cool (and instructive) London crosswalk, and a mad dash to the right, we arrived at The London Eye… or at least the gardens surrounding it.
By this point The Eye was closed for the night but it was still lit up, reflecting beautifully over the River Thames; and the Frostival ice-skating rink was also winding down. Large tour boats were done for the evening, moored to grungy, river-tried docks. The skyline was stunning, though, with Elizabeth Tower (aka Big Ben) just to the other side of the Thames.
“I heard Big Ben ring 11 times!” Sami said, “that means it’s 11 o’clock!”
11 o’clock! It was getting late, and we hadn’t eaten dinner yet! We decided to look around for somewhere to eat, preferably somewhere warm, with a good menu, and with reasonable prices. Turns out, that’s a tall order in London, especially when you’re playing with American dollars — the exchange rate sucks! Place after place was either too costly or the wrong kind of food, so we made our way through Jubilee Gardens — where we’d later see some fantastic street performers! — to the bridge that would take us across the river.
It seemed like a great idea… until the rain began to fall.
We were naive when we left the hotel room; we were sure to grab our coats and scarves but we hadn’t put a moment’s thought into buying an umbrella! The bridge wasn’t far and the wheelchair was going as quickly as it (safely) could, but the winds and the chilly rain were a force to be reckoned with! By the time we made it to cover, we were drenched from head to toe, laughing nervously that while we just enjoyed some good old-fashioned heart-racing fun, we were playing with fire. Sami is on chemo and getting sick would slam the brakes on her trip, probably even landing her in a local hospital for monitoring. I was terrified but Sami was insistent: “We can’t stop! We have to eat dinner!”
Our elevator opened to the Golden Jubilee Bridge, revealing an entirely new perspective on what we’d be oohing and ahing at down below! The bridge was wide, running parallel to a passenger train whizzing by every now and again, and there were a lot of people walking it. Business people, love-drunk couples, teenagers and tourists, all walking briskly, all talking rapidly, and all dry under their umbrellas! We listened to catch the different languages and accents — there were tons of them! — and we took note of different fashion trends, styles familiar and unfamiliar to the American eye. About halfway across the bridge, shivering with smiles on our faces, we admitted the obvious: the Golden Jubilee Bridge is a pretty long bridge! So after swaddling her up nice and tight in a blanket and giving her my pea coat for protection from the cold & rain, we turned back to settle on a restaurant we’d passed 15-minutes before.
The walk back was more intimate, no longer so focused on what we hadn’t seen before. We talked about what this trip meant to us, what we hoped we’d gain from it, and what we longed to do with our lives. She told me that she loves Grand Rapids but that she wishes she had more friends to spend time with on a regular basis; that she’s happy with our new home but longs to see cities around the USA and the world; and then she said:
“Please never leave me, Papa. I know that I’ll never leave you.”
I stopped dead in my tracks; the misty rain and everyone walking by seemed to be in slow-motion! All of a sudden London wasn’t so big; in fact, it was really small, made up of no more than the space surrounding her & I on that beautiful bridge. She listened with trustful eyes as I promised I’d never leave her or the family, that I’d always remain by her side; I reminded her of the frightful nights at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, of those difficult days at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital, and of the tumultuous times where I advocated with all my might for her, for her dreams and for her dignity! Then I got down on my knee, looked her in the eyes, and told her what I’ve felt for so long now: “Samantha, you are better than Papa. You are greater than me in almost every way. I would die for you! I would jump in front of a bullet to save your life! Because Papa will die one day, but you are the future! You’re going to change the world, sweetheart, and that’s something I can’t wait to see, even more than all the beautiful and majestic things in London!”
With a quiver in her lip and tears welling up in her eyes, she looked at me and said, “We don’t need God, Papa; all we need is friends, family and love.”
After another 10 belly-grumbling minutes in the cold, we finally decided on an Asian eatery… which just so happened to be the first restaurant we passed after leaving the hotel! The food was expensive and not too good — “They don’t have that thick, red sweet & sour sauce like in the United States!” — but we were warm, and our stomachs were finally full of food! (Mission accomplished!)
Retracing our walk, we made it back to the Premier Inn, excited to get out of our soaking wet clothing — I never did get my coat back, btw! — and into the warm hotel room with a Hypnos bed awaiting our arrival! On the elevator ride up to our floor, Sami said, “Thank you for the walk, and thank you so much for talking to me. I really love you with all my heart — more than you’ll ever know; and even though we didn’t get to go on the London Eye today, I had the best night. It really is like a dream come true.”
To which I replied, “I wouldn’t have changed a thing, baby.”
(To be continued…)
Standing proudly in her shadow,
Email TeamTinyDancer@gmail.com for all interviews and speeches! And help Sami and her family to “Never give up! And keep on smiling!” this Christmas by visiting their GoFundMe page today!
“I’m leaving because the weather is too good,” said Groucho Marx, “I hate London when it’s not raining.” Well, Groucho would’ve loved London when we were there! From the get-go, there were gray skies, strong winds, and periodic downpours. It was cold, as well, at times very cold! Much like our eating situation — more on that in another post — the weather really cut into our time…
… if we chose to look at life that way.
Instead, we tried making the best of things, using our down time to get settled in, to plan out our days, and to catch up with some much needed sleep. Jet lag is a real thing, as we learned, and London is five-hours ahead of Michigan’s Eastern Standard Time! This also allowed Athanasius some space to get over the sickness he’d be battling for over a week; in the days leading up to our flight he had a fever, dark rings under his eyes, a persistent cough, and no interest in food. So sleep was desperately needed, and the rain made it easy… for all of us.
We also decided to watch some British TV, getting a sense for their news and popular culture. (It’s BBC everything over there!) We watched the U.K. vs. France soccer game (they call it football), caught up with the news about terror attacks in Paris, and discovered that Trinity Broadcast Network (and John “Blood Moon” Hagee) has an audience on the other side of the pond! Children’s programing isn’t nearly as loaded with adult humor and innuendo, but it’s also pretty low quality. Commercials are no different, really, still serving as a sort of parable with a problem in need of the sort of fixing only made possible with the use of this or that gimmick or gadget. No direct-to-consumer drug ads, though, which was very strange given just how inundated American TV viewers are with such Big Pharma marketing schemes. There were more American shows on British TV than British shows on American TV and the show selections were really funny; shows like Family Guy, How I Met Your Mother, Xena, and Hercules were on the air but they also had classics like Little House on the Prairie, The Waltons, and Matlock — that last one cracked me up! And apart from there being a predictable amount of programming dedicated to the royalty and elites, most stations stopped airing sometime during the night, resuming the next morning… or being committed entirely to teleshopping. This landed us listening to BBC Radio stations, dozing off to classical jazz and orchestral selections.
Not too bad — not too bad at all!
After a few days, the storm clouds began to roll away, the rain dropping only here and there, and the winds being bagged up for another blustery day during our stay. It was this second night that really set the tone for the remainder of our trip, that settled deep in our hearts a resolve that just as much (or even more!) than the sites and sounds of London, our grandest of memories would likely be those made in the meantime, in those occasions traveling from one place to another or while reflecting on our day while listening to music in bed… and it all began with a magical midnight stroll to the London Eye.
To be continued…
Drunk on a dream come true,
Email TeamTinyDancer@gmail.com for all interviews and speeches! And help Sami and her family to “Never give up! And keep on smiling!” this Christmas by visiting their GoFundMe page today!
Here’s a video someone brought to my attention about a month ago, and by someone I mean a butt-ton of liberals in my social media news feeds! (Fact: conservatives don’t share Occupy Democrats any more than progressives share Louder With Crowder.) It’s of Rep. Luis Vicente Gutiérrez (D-IL) during the House Judiciary Committee hearing on Planned Parenthood. To date, the video has been shared 135,525 times and has garnished 73,451 likes — and this from Occupy Democrats’ Facebook page alone!
The high point of Gutiérrez’s sentiments — even according to Occupy Democrats — begins around the end, where he states:
“It seems to me that what we’re really talking about here today is turning back the clock… gay people are not going back in the closet; Latinos and Asians and immigrants are not going to disappear; and women are not going to get back-alley abortions and put their lives at risk again while Americans are standing up for a better, more inclusive, egalitarian future for everyone in this country… We’re good, we’re in a good place because there’s a growing coalition in America. We all know what it is. It’s people who care about Mother Earth, it’s people who care about women and their rights, it’s people who care about gays & lesbians, it’s people who care about immigrants, people who care that we have fair and decent salaries… And you want to know something? Donald Trump likes to talk about the polls. Well, I’ve got a poll, and in my poll the vast majority of the American people want to move forward, not turn back the clock.” (Edited by Occupy Democrats & me.)
It’s all so wonderfully worded, so passionate and well-spoken; but was he right? Was he overconfident? Where do Americans really stand on these issues? Are we experiencing a heyday of progressivism? Or was Gutiérrez playing fast & loose with his party-time rhetoric? It really got me thinking, and I had to do some serious homework!
I’m glad I did.
According to an AP-GfK poll, the nation is totally divided over the issue of marriage equality. As noted by USA Today, even with support edging out opposition (by a measly 42-40 margin), those in disagreement with the Supreme Court ruling still lead 41-39 percent, while 56 percent of the nation continues to believes that, when push comes to shove, the religious liberty of local officials like Kim Davis trumps the state’s need to protect gay rights, and this against 36 percent of Americans saying otherwise.
On the matter of immigration, Pew reports the views of Americans regarding assimilation aren’t really too far off from Donald Trump with 66 percent of independents and even 55 percent of Democrats thinking, generally, that immigrants aren’t too big on the whole assimilation thing and that, “Overall, about half of Americans (49%) say immigration should be decreased.” I’d be remiss were I not to add, “A Pew Research survey conducted in May found 31% of Americans said that legal immigration should be decreased…”
As for the pro-life/pro-choice debate, Gallup says 50 percent of Americans identify as pro-choice. Apparently, this is a seven-year high for the pro-choice position, though not as high as it was in the ’90s. Just a few years ago, pro-lifers outnumbered pro-choicers at 46-44 percent. To take these numbers too far, as I believe Gutiérrez does, is an exercise in well-wishing… or at least an unwarranted enthusiasm spiced up with a dash of good old-fashioned stump-speech theater. Add to this the Reuters/Ipsos poll pointing out that while 54 percent of respondents support continued funding of Planned Parenthood, this dropped by 10 points for those having seen the videos by Center for Medical Progress. Throw that bit into the mix and the poll discovers “39 percent saying Planned Parenthood should not receive government funding and 34 percent said federal dollars should continue.”
For the purpose of this entry, views on income inequality and climate change are similar. Regarding income inequality, Gallup states that 63 percent of Americans believe its distributed unfairly. But “these attitudes are substantially unchanged over the past 30 years,” and with only 52 percent saying higher taxes on the rich are the answer. Concerning climate change, Pew finds that 61 percent of respondents said they believe “there’s solid evidence that the earth is warming” but only 48 percent consider it a “high priority”; wrap this up with, “in an international survey of 39 publics last year, Americans were among the least concerned about climate change threatening their country.”
So returning to the quote from Gutiérrez, what poll doth he speak of? Certainly none of those linked in this post! It almost appears as though he pulls all of this entirely out of his ass… a lot like Trump, actually, blowing hot air for political points with the base — a liberal base, by the way, enjoying an all-time high of 25 percent of the American population, trailing 14 points behind conservatives.
The prick of my point: a sober glance over the best numbers we’ve got available indicates that on each and every one of these issues — and quite contrary to claims made by Gutiérrez! — our nation is dreadfully divided, being as “substantially unchanged” as it is easily entertained by congressional theatrics… especially when the act plays out in favor of our cherished causes and their champions.
Round & round we go…
The Paleocrat, Jeremiah Bannister
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I’ve grown so weary of End Times madness. Having been raised in Pentecostal-charismatic churches, I heard all sorts of Last Days prophecies and “this generation!” kind of stuff. It was so scandalous, so disillusioning, and it left me with some serious psychological scarring. To pluck just one wicked fruit from that old-time gospel tree, I was stuck watching “Thief in the Night” (the original “Left Behind” series) as a tween in youth group… entirely unbeknownst to my parents… in the middle of the night… in an otherwise dark room… during a lock-in. I had terrible recurring nightmares for years after that! But such trauma is of little (or no) worry to those wild-eyed weirdos whose endgame amounts to little more than “scaring the hell OUT OF YOU for Jesus’ sake!” (Selah)
It’s the same song & dance every time, though… every. single. time! “These are like unto the days of Noah! The signs are all aligned! Repent or perish!” Seriously, just look at their Web sites, for crying out loud! It’s like looking at a carbon copy of a carbon copy of a carbon copy!
It’d all be so scary if it just wasn’t so damn sad.
So whenever I hear guys like Mark Blitz, Franklin Graham, the Dimond brothers, or John Hagee feverishly flipping through their sacred pages in hopes of finding “these our tumultuous times” anywhere in “the signs,” I remind myself just how crazy it is to ever wonder, “Oh, I guess maybe ol’ Harold Camping & Ellen G. White were actually on to something after all!” — especially after everything I’ve experienced! To me, that a pretty good reason to keep calm… and to move on.
Sure, it’s true that the old “But it coooooould happen!” canard occasionally rears its scary little head… but I’ve gotten pretty good at playing whack-a-mole.
From the outskirts of sanity,
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“America the Great” video reposted from Jeremiah’s YouTube
After returning to the cool and quiet of our home from an afternoon spent with my wife and kids at the playground, I had some spare time on my hands.
“Hmm… what to do?” I asked myself, “Play chess? No, I’m doing that all day tomorrow. Practice guitar? No, I did that last night. Read “The Federalist Papers” or “Origin of Species” (two books I’ve been working through for a while now)? Nah, I can always get back to those. I’ve got it! I should catch up with some TV news!” (In hindsight, I should’ve ended with, “said me never.”)
Everywhere I watched, a nation divided and in disarray.
Steve Kornacki was filling in for Chris Matthews on “Hardball,” highlighting Trump in this not-so-must-see: “Donald Trump: His most outrageous moments…so far.” (Barf. Pass.)
Over at Fox News, I was treated to an all-you-can-eat of crazy, beginning with ‘THANK YOU, KIM’: Rally backs jailed Kentucky clerk over marriage licenses” and ending with “VIDEO: Who is to blame for the war against law enforcement?” Fox News did, however, post a mind-boggling story (“Rep. Jeff Miller slams the Veterans Affairs backlog“) following closely on the heels of a recent report issued by the VA’s Inspectors General regarding the ongoing controversies surrounding the institution and its notorious waiting list. In the report, the IG admits to upward of 300,000 veterans dying while waiting to be enrolled in the system… and that the the backlog is still over 1,000,000!
NBC News was, per usual, the least enervating to watch, featuring an exclusive with Hillary Clinton, entitled, “Hillary Clinton Says ‘Sorry’ for Email Confusion“; whereas the anxiety-ridden RT had this little gem: “Divided states: Kentucky clerk case spotlights gaps in legislature and opinions,” citing (almost in passing) a Reuters/Ipsos US opinion poll showing that “49.2 percent of those surveyed support same-sex marriages, 36.5 percent oppose them and 14.3 percent are unsure.”
Enter: CNN’s 2016 Election page…
Ignoring any and all stories with an image of a red “Make America Great Again” ball cap, I found myself on a page at least mostly dedicated to the candidates. (“Get to know the candidates in under two minutes!” they boast.) With the exception of my personal “all things being (unrealistically) equal” favorite, the entire gang was there! Hillary, Trump, Jeb, Bernie, Fiorina, the whole gaggle! They even included ol’ Gov. Rick Perry, who’s campaign is in a total death spiral. But the videos really were only two minutes, and the information they provide about each candidates could fit on the back of a baseball card! (Nothing to see here, folks, carry on!)
Then it hit me: good, bad, or indifferent, this is what American democracy looks like. Whether inevitable or by happenstance, it is what it is: stupid, scandalous, sensationalistic… and polarized. Watching it on TV only makes matters worse, leaving one feeling as though they’ve been cheated on or lied to; that and the aching feeling one gets following wave upon wave of ninjas inflicting a seemingly endless supply of swift roundhouse kicks to the crotch!
When all was read and done, I reflected on something from Lord Alexander Fraser Tytler, a critic of democracy. I recall him decrying Montesquieu‘s version of democracy as “nothing better than an Utopian theory, a splendid chimera, descriptive of a state of society that never did, and never could exist; a republic not of men, but of angels.” Of course, Montesquieu’s theories had a profound impact on America’s understanding and practice of democracy, even on our Constitution. But was Tytler right?
I can accept his logic, but only so far; in the end, I’m always left wondering, “But is there not a human span between angel & demon? And is this difference made up only of monsters?”
If the answers are to be derived from what we gather watching TV news, I’d fear them being, “There are no angels or demons here, boy, only monsters… and that includes you.”
Between the wolves and the precipice,
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